RHS London Orchid Show and Botanical Art Show

McBeans Cymbidium display at the Spring Show last week.

The dates for this years RHS London Orchid Show and Botanical Art Show have been confirmed as 12-13 April. The show which is the first orchid show of the year in the UK always attracts a large crowd of orchid lovers has had to have a slight change in date compared to usual. As well as seeing the spectacular orchids from the world's finest specialist growers there will be a fine selection of beautiful botanical art.

Also featuring:
• Discover stunning displays of tropical and hardy orchids from the finest British and International growers.
• Shop from an amazing variety of orchid species and hybrids to suit all budgets
• Hear from a first-class selection of Orchid experts on a range of Orchid cultivation topics.
• Admire stunning works in the largest botanical art show of the year.

Cymbidium Mighty Mouse 'Minnie'
Hardy orchids, suitable for a range of growing conditions will be on display at Heritage and McBean's Orchids and miniature species will be available to buy from the Columbian Orquideas del Valle. Lawrence Hobbs will be displaying exotic species while new discoveries will be on show from Equatorial Plants.

For more information and tickets see here.

Award of Garden Merit

RHS Halls,Westmister
The RHS have revisied the list of plants which have been awarded Award of Garden Merit (AGM), these include a wide selection including vegetables, fruit, perennials as well as trees and shrubs. The list now includes some 7,000 plants from around the world.
The plants awarded have been selected from the more than 100,000 plants currently available in the UK with the list being designed to help gardeners select plants for particular aspects or conditions that will do well reliably.
The AGM is intended to be of practical value to the home gardener. It is awarded therefore only to a plant that meets the following criteria:
  • It must be of outstanding excellence for ordinary garden decoration or use
  • It must be available
  • It must be of good constitution
  • It must not require highly specialist growing conditions or care
  • It must not be particularly susceptible to any pest or disease
  • It must not be subject to an unreasonable degree of reversion in its vegetative or floral characteristics
The award list was started 1991 and has recently been fully reviewed by the various RHS Plant Committees that are made up from  nurserymen leading horticulturists as well as members of key plant societies and plant-group specialists. 

During the process of review that took place last year nearly 2,000 plants lost their awards and a further 1,500 were given awards for the first time. Such a comprehensive review ensures that the list remains current and applicable based on changes in availability, pests and other considerations.

The list will be reviewed on an annual basis and the trialling of plant groups under-represented on the revised list and plant groups that have undergone extensive breeding programmes in recent years will be made a priority. The plants themselves are not graded within the award, so no distinction is made between good and very good for instance, as long as a plant meets or exceeds the standards set it gains the award.

The RHS have also launched their new hardiness ratings, which have been used to re-assess all AGM plants by using data on the plant’s ability to tolerate a range of weather conditions. The hardiness rating is an integral part of the AGM, and should be included in any citation of the award.
Jim Gardiner RHS Director of Horticulture said: "The creation of the new hardiness ratings and the revised AGM list underline just why the RHS exists, to share the best in gardening. The knowledge and expertise of our trials forums and plant committees, and their dedication to share that knowledge with all gardeners, has resulted in systems that will help ensure we can all make the very best decisions about the plants we purchase. On seeing the RHS AGM logo gardeners should be confident that the plants they are purchasing have been objectively assessed to ensure they will perform as described."

Check out  for more details

Beauty in Black and White

This display at the RHS Plant And Design Show really caught my attention, with a fantastic selection of black and plants, snow drops giving the crisp white and black mondo grass giving a lovely crisp dark and shiny black in the lower right hand side. This is something I may try in my garden next year.

Colour Galore at the RHS London Show

The first major plant fair of the year started today at the RHS London Halls in Westminster. With a huge selection of spring bulbs, and other plants available its well worth visiting - but you best be quick this two day event finishes tomorrow.

The main hall
Snowdrops were out in force on a number of stands
Dwarf iris in a large group look spectacular


Yeo Valley Organic Garden Plant Fair

Yeo Valley will be hosting a Plant Fair at its Organic Garden on Sunday 5th May. With free entry to both the garden and the fair, the event is perfect for those looking for hardy and unusual perennials, herbs and shade-loving plants.

Local craftsmen will also be selling decorative metalwork and willow items, such as plant supports. In preparation, Yeo Valley is busy sowing and raising young veggie plants in the glasshouse, to be ready just in time for the fair.

In May, thousands of bulbs, including tulips and irises, will be in flower in the Organic Garden, giving visitors the opportunity to enjoy a colourful display in the perennial meadow and see the tea crab avenue blossom.

The tea room will be open all day for coffee, lunch and afternoon tea.

Yeo Valley’s Organic Garden is also open every Thursday and Friday, as well as the first Sunday of the month, from 10am-5pm between 25th April and 25th October. Entry is £5.

Visit Yeo Valley at: Yeo Valley Organic Garden, Holt Farm, Bath Road, Blagdon, North Somerset, BS40 7SQ. Tel 01761 461650 E:,

Iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin

You always know spring is well on its way when the beautiful miniature iris are making a show again. This one is Iris reticulata Katharine Hodgkin 

RHS London Plant & Design Show

One for the diary is RHS London Plant & Design Show held in the RHS Horticultural Halls, London on 19 & 20 February, 2013. The gardening year in London kicks off with the RHS London Plant & Design Show. The show will centre around an interactive feature focusing on six garden themes from conifers and woodland to kitchen gardens and house plants. It has been designed to celebrate the launch of the new RHS Award of Garden Merit (AGM) list and the new RHS hardiness ratings.

Tickets are available from the RHS

Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns

Timber Press have a reputation amongst gardeners for publishing high quality, well illustrated and informative books. Sue Olsen's Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns does not disappoint.

Almost 1,000 ferns are documented and illustrated in typical Timber Press fashion, the 700 stunning photos and detailed descriptions will have you clambering to find suppliers for many of these ferns. There is a bias towards the United States in terms of some of the ferns and descriptions, however the vast majority of plants that caught my attention are readily available in the UK from a number of specialist suppliers.

Published in 2007, the Encyclopedia is now a good 5 years old, however I don't think this should be an issue, many of the newer introductions mentioned have been available for a while now, and many of the well known species are described with lots of cultivation experience of the author as well as numerous other enthusiasts. Olsen is an experienced plants woman and author and has plenty of experience behind her,  having studied grown and photographed ferns for 4 decades. Foliage Gardens, her nursery has introduced many ferns into horticulture. Olsen is also a founding member and the first president of the American Hardy Fern Foundation as well as being the editor of the Hardy Fern Foundation Quarterly newsletter

Each genus is described in detail with a focus on the garden worthiness of each plant, providing detailed habitat and cultural requirements. Propagation techniques are explored in some detail, having never attempted to grow fern from spore I do fancy giving this a try, perhaps later this year I will use Olsens techniques and attempt to prop my own ferns!  The book focusses on ferns suitable for  the more temperate climates, however a number of stunning exotic species are also featured in the book.

Not quite an A to Z, the detailed plant directory starts with the genus Acrostichum and extends to Woodwardia (one can't complain I couldn't think of any fern genus starting with a Z either - if you have any suggestions please include them in the replies).

The books includes chapters covering the cultivation, history and fern structures leading to a number of lists of plants suitable for growing in a number of different conditions and habitats.

I would go as far as suggesting that this is the definitive such work on ferns and should be included in any good collection of horticultural texts.

The Encyclopedia of Garden Ferns is published by Timber Press and is available from all the usual book sellers. 

Win Rod and Bens Hamper

Its competition time again and this time we have a fantastic seasonal produce hamper from Rod and Ben's to give away.

Rod and Ben’s, an award-winning organic food producer in Devon, produces vegetable boxes, a range of sumptuous seasonal soups and wholesome new organic food pots, all of which will be included in the hamper along with other local Devon goodies. Rod Hall runs his farm with the knowledge that the best-tasting, most nutritious and honest food is picked and eaten in season without endangering the environment. 

The veggies from the farm either land in boxes or find themselves in Rod & Ben’s soup kitchen within a matter of hours, where they are blended together using simple recipes so the ingredient’s integrity – colour, flavour and texture – is preserved.

To be in with a chance simply answer the following question:

Which of the following is not part of the Winter Soups Range?

A) Farmhouse Vegetable
B) Pea and Mint
C) Spicy Parsnip

Extra entries can be made by sharing this competition on Twitter (include #DiligentGardener) or by liking our page and sharing the competition on Facebook.

An additional entry can be made by "following" this blog via Google Friend Connect

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 24 February 2013. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter. By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random from the valid entries and will be announced here on the blog. Please make sure we are able to contact you if you do win.Entries can be made as "anonymous" on the blog but if you don't leave a Twitter name or other way to contact you then those will not be counted.

Growing Vegetables in 2013 – where to start

When starting out a vegetable patch or at an allotment, it is often quite overwhelming as there is so many possibilities when it comes to the different produce you can grow. This Vegetable Planner can help when organising your time and your allotment, and starts with 8 basic vegetables that can be used in a huge variety of meals. However, starting out on a vegetable patch or allotment can be quite daunting so here are some tips to help you get growing.

Tips for starting out on an allotment
·         If you’re a beginner, starting on a smaller plot will make it easier for you to manage.

  • When starting out it’s a good idea to talk to other gardeners who work on the allotment to find out what’s been successful and what hasn’t been on their plots – this could save you a lot of time in the long run!
  •  First job should be take care of your soil and make sure it’s fit for purpose, so sort out any weeds and other pests.
  •  Make sure your tools are up to scratch and well looked after – investment in the long term will yield better results. Keeping them in a secure shed or outbuilding will ensure that they stay safe and in good condition.

Broccoli – a popular variety that is commonly grown is the Sprouting Broccoli Claret F1. It’s easy to pick and grows in poorer soil so this is a great variety for when you’re just starting out.

Cabbage – there are three different general types of cabbage – winter, summer and spring types. For example, the Kilaxy variety of cabbage is a summer type and can be harvested in late summer/early autumn.

Carrot – if you want to start growing carrots as soon as possible, go for the type Adelaide AGM as this can be sown in February or March. Make sure to use a cloche for protection.

Cauliflower - there are many different varieties of cauliflower – why not try a purple variety such as Purple Graffiti to add some vibrant colour to your vegetable patch. Just remember to harvest cauliflower as soon as it’s ready.

Lettuce – Set AGM is a variety of lettuce that is fairly easy to grow, so would be good for beginners. However, in the summer watch out for lettuce root aphid – this pest attacks the lettuce roots so you may not be able to see it but look for ants around the plant as this can be a sign. Keep the plants well watered as this can help suppress the damage.

Onion – You can start sowing onions from March to April and they are better suited for open ground so they are a great choice of vegetables if you’ve got an allotment or a spacious vegetable patch.

Potato - Ideally potatoes need be in a sunny site away from frost, so before planting anything have find out how much sun exposure your plot receives. March/April is the perfect time to start planting tubers.

Tomato – You can plant tomatoes indoors or outdoors depending on what you resources you have available. Ferline beefsteak tomatoes have some resistance to tomato and potato blight so could be a good variety to start with for a beginner.

Whatever you decide to grow, good luck and here's to a bumper harvest in 2013.

How to Grow Asparagus

Asparagus when bought in the supermarket are usually imported and they usually do not have the same delicious flavour compared to when you grow your own produce. If you are going to grow asparagus at home you can either grow from seed or buy plants.

Buying asparagus plants is a quick way to get started, typically retailers sell 1 or 2 year old plants. However, as with many crops the choice of varieties is often not as wide as from growing by seed. There is also the risk of failure with bought plants, and a small percentage will not establish well. Personally I prefer to grow from seed but the choice is entirely yours.

By growing asparagus from seed usually gives the best results, and generally you will end up with more plants than you need. You can sow either in pots first or directly into the ground, if you opt for direct sowing then there is no transplanting or root shock to delay valuable root development.

Direct Sowing
Asparagus should be sown to the ground in April when the ground is warm enough to initiate germination, as with many seed it is worth soaking the seed first. First rake over the ground where you intend to sow the seeds into a fine tilth, then mark out rows roughly 5cm deep and abut 30-45 cm apart, then sow the seed thinly into the rows. Once sown water in well with a fine spray. Your seeds should germinate and be visible within about 3 weeks, at which point you should thin them out to about 5cm apart. Allow them to grow to 15cm (6inch)or so and thin them out again to 30-45cm apart. Keep the bed weed free and allow them to grow for the first year.

Indoor sowing
Some varieties are best sown indoors (a good example is the popular variety 'Connovers Colossal') the best time for this is during February and March. As with direct sowing it is worth soaking the seed for a couple of hours first. Plant the seed into individual plugs or cells containing a good quality moist seed compost. Place the pots in a warm room and once germinated, move to to a cooler well lit area such as a windowsill, avoiding direct sunlight.

By May you will need to start hardening them off which can take between 2-3 weeks before planting into your asparagus bed. You can plant them fairly deep, roughly 5cm below the compost level, and water well.

Although it takes longer to establish an asparagus bed from seed you get a wider choice of varieties but will probably be a year or so longer before you can harvest your produce. Asparagus shoots can be harvested in the late spring when the new tips are about 15 cm tall. Typically you will be able to harvest for a further six to eight weeks into the early summer. Don't be tempted to harvest plants younger than 2 years as this can weaken the plant, let them get well established first.

How to prepare your planting bed
You can prepare your new asparagus bed from the autumn before planting, although time is now of the essence. Asparagus likes well drained soil and can cope in most soil types,however with heavy clay it is worth growing them in raised beds. Dig the area over well and then work in lots of well rotted manure. Asparagus do best in a soil with a pH of between 6.5 and 7.5, so if you are on a particularly acid soil add lime. As with any new planting bed remove all weeds and get the roots out from perennial pests such as dandylions. If you are on a windy site then some protection from the winds should be given to stop the plants getting damaged before they establish.

In subsequent years you should mulch the area with well rotted manure or home made compost, and you will get years of enjoyment from your crops.

UK Bans Five Species of Invasive Non-native Aquatic Plants

Environment Minister Richard Benyon has announced that five species of invasive non-native aquatic plants are to be banned from sale, In the first ban of its kind, the government hopes the ban will save the environment agency money and at the same time help to protect vulnerable habitats.

The plants that will be banned from April next year are water fern, parrot's feather, floating pennywort, water primrose and Australian swamp stonecrop.

Richard Benyon said that "tough laws to curb the sale of these plants could save the country millions of pounds as well as protecting wildlife such as fish and native plants, but as well as saving money and protecting wildlife the ban will also help maintain access to rivers and lakes for anglers and watersport fans."

Announcing the ban, Defra explained that the plants that have been banned had previously been sold by garden and aquatic centres and planted in garden ponds but have escaped into the wild, where they have overwhelmed our native species as they have no natural predators to eat them. Consequently the plants were able to take over by creating large unpenetrable mats of foliage, depleting oxygen and light availability, causing declines in the numbers of fish and other aquatic species. As they clog up watercourse alien plants can also lead to an increased risk of flooding.
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